'The great apostle of physical culture' arrives in Brisbane (1902)

Photograph of Sandow from Steele Rudd's magazine July 1906. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 147977

Photograph of Sandow from Steele Rudd's magazine July 1906. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 147977

In October 1902, Brisbane theatre audiences were treated to two world-renowned acts. One was opera singer Nellie Melba, the other the man referred to as the father of modern bodybuilding, Eugen Sandow. Born Friedrich Muller in Prussia, Sandow had been touring Australia since July and garnering a great deal of publicity.

On October 27, as the "great apostle of physical culture" arrived at Central Station, he was greeted by a crowd of fans, including excited members of the Brisbane Gymnasium Club. "You are doubtless tired after your long journey," suggested one journalist, to which the musclar Sandow replied: "No, I never tire."

Central Railway Station, Brisbane, Queensland 1901. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 150532

Central Railway Station, Brisbane, Queensland 1901. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 150532

Sandow certainly needed stamina for his short but jam-packed visit to Brisbane. Along with his shows at the Theatre Royal over five nights and two matinees, the strongman was given a public reception at the Town Hall, attended a fete in aid of the Lady Lamington and Sick Children's Hospitals, made a special visit to the Brisbane Gymnasium, and attended a demonstration of boomerang throwing at the City Botanic Gardens.

Advertisement from Queensland Figaro, October 30, 1902

Advertisement from Queensland Figaro, October 30, 1902

Queensland Figaro reported Sandow had many female fans in attendance: "Women are irresistibly drawn to view mountains of muscle and are fascinated with the flesh of this tremendous athlete."

From - 'The gospel of strength according to Sandow : a series of talks on the Sandow system of physical culture, by its founder' (1902). National Library of Australia collection.

Apart from his entertainment value, Sandow was promoting his book, Strength and How To Obtain It, and his patented fitness equipment: spring-grip dumbbells and the "obesity reducer".

'A private exhibition by Sandow at the Theatre Royal, Brisbane'. Image published in The Queenslander, November 8, 1902.

'A private exhibition by Sandow at the Theatre Royal, Brisbane'. Image published in The Queenslander, November 8, 1902.

Advertisement for Sandow's Spring-Grip Dumbbells. Published in Brisbane Courier, November 1, 1902

Advertisement for Sandow's Spring-Grip Dumbbells. Published in Brisbane Courier, November 1, 1902

A private demonstration at the Theatre Royal was given for medical professionals and leading Brisbane citizens, including Queensland's then chief justice and former premier Sir Samuel Griffith.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWM2ixqua3Y

Film footage of Sandow from the Library of Congress

Further reading

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